HOW TO: transition your wedding outfit from day to night

They say that when you find your dream gown you’ll never want to take it off. But what if you do, just so you can dance? Enter the trend for having more than one bridal outfit – without wrecking the budget

Bianca & Jagger embellished tulle gown and feather trim bolero, £POA, Jenny Packham

Back when we were students, my pals and I were bewitched by the exotic concept of ‘desk to bar’. We built up such a glittering, glamorous vision of office life in our heads, imagining our filing cabinet drawers stuffed full of the kind of transitional heels, drop earrings and box clutches that would catapult us from computer chair to bar stool in time for happy hour. How wrong we were. 

Still, the fantasy of fashion metamorphosis is one I cling to. If I could get away with it, I’d have more costume changes than Mariah Carey. In the real world, we just don’t have enough opportunities to play diva dress-up, with one shining exception – the big day.

And here’s the thing: even though its roots are in celebrities’ insatiable appetite for dresses and drama, switching up your bridal look is not such a ‘diva’ stunt any more. There are actually solid reasons behind the trend.

Thea gown with removable sleeves, from £4,995 (without sleeves), Sassi Holford

Let me explain. Although inspired by the latest merry-go-round of stars opting for multiple gowns, like Sophie Turner, Zoë Kravitz and Ellie Goulding (whose infamous six outfits – and counting, apparently – caused quite a stir last year), a wedding wardrobe can be a practical choice rather than a purely indulgent one.

Say you’ve got two venues to factor into the equation, one religious and the other glitzy. Will one gown suit both?

“A lot of women find they need to cover up a bit more if they’re getting married in a church, which is totally understandable,” says designer Catriona Garforth.

“You might then feel you can’t fully enjoy your reception in this gown, in which case a second, fun option might be worth considering. You want to be able to dance and socialise with ease, without, for instance, the weight of a heavy train trailing after you.”

Couturier Sassi Holford agrees: “Perhaps you’re planning a traditional wedding that calls for longer sleeves, but you’re going to have a ceilidh later on. Your evening dress will need to be all about movement and flexibility.” Strip the Willow is no cake walk.

Sustainability could also be a factor. I know, I know – am I seriously advising you to buy more in order to be eco-friendly? But think about it. That ballgown could take you
comfortably from first look to last orders, but afterwards?

From left: Ava lace top, £610, and Brooke stretch crepe skirt, from £700; Suzy jumpsuit, from £475, all CG Loves

It’s not going to have much mileage, unless you’re secretly a duchess. Separates might offer better post-wedding wearability, with the added bonus of keeping guests guessing throughout your wedding day, as if you’re some kind of sartorial chameleon.

“Most of our brides go for wardrobe changes simply because we specialise in separates and pieces that can be reworn,” Catriona says. “We’ve had clients who’ve stripped down from beneath a fabulous flowing skirt and lace jacket to a slinky bias-cut gown to rock the reception.”

And you might have other limitations to contend with. Not everyone, it seems, is on the ‘your day, your way’ train. “Unfortunately, as I have seen happen on occasion, the bride has had to settle for a certain style in order to keep members of the bridal party happy,” recalls Etiquette Bridal’s Eilidh Campbell.

Remove the lace jacket in this combo of Mikaella Bridal separates (style 2293) to reveal a daring crop top, £POA

“It’s always frustrating. But in such circumstances, it makes sense for the bride to change into a party dress that’s more in line with what she originally wanted.”

Obviously, we’d strongly advise you to stick to your guns, but if that plunging Martina Liana masterpiece is going to cause a family feud, maybe having a couple of dresses to hand wouldn’t compromise you entirely. “The second can show another side of your personality,” points out Sassi. Well, if it worked for Meghan Markle…

Sold on separates? Plotting a party frock? Better get crunching those numbers, pronto. Can you afford to splurge or do you need to think more creatively?

Harlem jumpsuit, £POA, Eliza Jane Howell

“Definitely consider your budget before diving in,” warns Jennifer Gilbert at The Bridal Courtyard.

“We all know how much weddings cost these days, so when you add an extra dress into the pot, it can throw things off.

“Plus, it’s hard enough finding The One as it is, so you are potentially giving yourself a lot of extra work.”

Why not search for one versatile dress? We have a few from Phoenix Gowns that have detachable trains, skirts, straps and belts, which can really alter the look and feel of the gown.

“We’ve also had brides opt for a lace jacket during the day and then swap it for a sparklier version at night. There are plenty of low-cost options.”

“Accessories can be very useful and inexpensive too,” suggests Catriona.

“For day, style up your gown with an embellished headpiece and veil, then shake your hair loose and introduce a floral crown and pared-back belt for a different mood in the evening.”

So, you’ve found yourself a killer modular dress or a flirty jumpsuit – what now? When and how to morph into your night-time look?

“I have been asked along several times to help brides change from their day dress into their evening one, and what I’ve found is that many end up in a panic as they realise they’re missing their own party,” laughs Eilidh.

From left: Divine gown and overskirt, £POA; Divine gown, £POA, both Suzanne Neville

“Make sure your gown is easy to put on, so the transformation is as swift as possible. Also, the re-styling must be significant enough to be noticed – the last thing you want is to make tweaks only for no one to clock them!”

“Make minimal changes that aren’t too time-consuming,” advises Jennifer. “Spending too long on it will take you away from your loved ones and your meticulously planned day. Brides who do change tend to do so in the slight lull before the evening guests arrive.”

For Eilidh, it’s worth keeping your main gown on until after your first dance: “It means all your evening guests can see the dress you walked down the aisle in. You’ll only wear it once – make the most of it!”

Move over, desk to bar. Aisle to dancefloor – now that’s the dream.